Froch and Bute
 
Nottingham’s Carl “The Cobra” Froch proved he still has his sting on
Saturday night when scoring his first stoppage win in three-years and doing so
against one of the top boxers in the super middle division in Canada’s Lucian
Bute
at the Nottingham Arena.  Froch hammered the Romania-born southpaw to
defeat at 1:05 after an utterly dominant performance to wrest away the IBF belt
and hand his stricken foe his first defeat in 31 fights (against 30 wins with
24 KOs).
 
Froch, now 29-2 (21), dropped a decision to Andre Ward in his previous
bout.  The American cemented his status as the division’s number one with
a dominant display in that one, picking up Froch’s WBC belt in the process, and
the meeting with Bute was considered a final fling of the dice for Froch
despite the fact that he has only lost to the very best in the world.  His other defeat was a close point’s loss to Mikkel
Kessler in April 2010. 
 
Froch’s recent run of fights reads: Jean Pascal, Jermain Taylor, Andre
Dirrell, Kessler, Arthur Abraham, Glen Johnson, Ward and Bute – a phenomenal
run which has yielded a 6-2 (2) haul for Froch.  Furthermore, Froch has
done things the right way, showing respect for his opponents post-fight while
picking up British, Commonwealth, WBC, WBA and IBF titles. 
 
There have been no bites, threats to eat yet-to-be-conceived children,
“glarsings” or claims that he will “literally shoot” someone.  Froch simply agreed to face a killer’s row of
guys and did so without too many complaints, his oft-repeated excuses about volcanic
dust clouds contributing to the Kessler loss notwithstanding. 
 
Now, though, the tide has turned, his win over Bute brought in a BARB
peak of 576,500 viewers on Saturday night, the tabloid press have started to
take notice and Froch spent Monday speaking to the major news outlets; he has
also lined up a few TV spots.  Crossover fame at last for a man who has fought
the best only to watch in bemusement as lesser guys gained the column inches.
 
“It is hard to put my feelings into words to be honest, but I’ve become
a world champion for a third time by beating an undefeated guy who is the best
at the weight,” said Froch when speaking to Britisboxers.co.uk on Monday
afternoon.  “A lot of people wrote me off, they said I had no chance of
winning, but not only did I win, I absolutely obliterated him and there’s no
question that I dominated from start to finish.  Anyone else in the ring
with me that night, including Andre Ward, would not have lived with me – it is
as simple as that.  I felt so good.  My preparation had gone well, so
I was firing on all cylinders.  I feel elated.”
 
As for his public perception, long recognized as one of the world’s
toughest and most daring fighters by boxing fans, Froch believes he is now a
genuine crossover star.  “The tables have
turned, I’m now massive and my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” he said. 
 
“I’ve been on the local news and the national news, I am going on the
Chris Moyles show and my Twitter page has gone through the roof – it is
brilliant.
 
I don’t seek redemption or credit, I box because I love it and I always
fight guys at the top-level because I’ve always wanted to be the best in the
world at what I do ever since turning professional.  There is no point in
being half-hearted, taking on ready picked opponents and retiring
undefeated.  I want to be the best and
fight the best – when you do that time and time again, you drop the odd close
decision.
 
“What I did the other night is phenomenal, it has never been done by any
other British fighter and I’m willing to put myself in there to do what I’ve
done.  Now people are recognizing and
acknowledging it.  I am getting the respect and credit I deserve.  It feels great – I’ve been put on the
pedestal that I deserve to be on.”
 
Froch’s inclusion in the Super Six tournament earned him respect and
recognition in the U.S.A. and Europe. 
Unfortunately, the general British sporting public missed out on his
early Super Six outings against Andre Dirrell, Mikkel Kessler and Arthur
Abraham as they took place on Primetime and Premier Sports.  Froch’s switch to Matchroom last year brought
Sky onboard, providing the platform required to capture a new audience. 
 
“What do you think?” asked the new champion when asked the admittedly banal
and obvious question of whether he is happy with his recent exposure.  “Of
course I am.  Working with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom has put my profile
through the roof with the best years ahead of me.  I’d like to take this
opportunity to thank Eddie and Matchroom for all their dedication.  The
thing about Eddie is that he’s passionate about the sport.  He is not a
desperate man, he is driven by desire and passion, very much like myself, and
when you’re driven by them things you are successful – as I was on Saturday
night.
 
“The crowd turned up to watch me because of what I’ve done and put into
the sport – they respect and appreciate it.  It is not just me, it is my
team and Eddie is a massive part of a small team.  We’ve just got Robert
McCracken [Froch’s trainer], Eddie and Matchroom, but look at what we’ve
achieved.”
 
American analyst Al Bernstein has
banged the drum for Froch over recent years.  The Showtime pundit and
long-time fight figure has always recognised Froch’s marketability, but also
understands that crossover appeal is hard to come by.  It is not just a case of fighting the best
and reaping the rewards according to Bernstein.
 
“I think boxers almost feel compelled,
and they are encouraged by the media in general, to behave badly,” said
Bernstein when speaking to me about fighters in general and Froch in particular
for April’s issue of Boxing Monthly.  “Then you have fighters who behave well and
are labeled ‘boring’, [WBC and WBA super middleweight champion] Andre Ward is a
perfect example of this.  We live in an
age where the squeaky wheel gets more attention.  Restrained behaviour doesn’t seem to get
rewarded as much.
 
“I think Carl is a perfect example of
someone who is who he is.  Carl is no shrinking violet – he is a
challenging type of guy.  I kidded him by saying he looks like one of those
guys from a Guy Ritchie movie, he has got that edge to him and it comes across
in an organic way.”
 
It seems that Bernstein’s appreciation
of Froch’s blunt, no-nonsense approach is spreading. 
“In a word, yes,” said Froch when asked if he
has finally cracked it.  “I’m getting genuine recognition.  The people who are giving me credit and
praise now always gave me credit, but the people who had sat on the fence, it
is almost as if they’ve come to the other side and there’s just one side now –
Carl Froch fans.
 
“My Twitter page doesn’t get one bad comment.  It is quite vile and disgusting the way
people talk to other people on Twitter, but I’ve got to be totally honest, I
don’t get any bad stick or press.  The reason for that is that I don’t
deserve any.  I do everything correct.  I’ve come through in the
hardest way possible in the toughest sport.  I don’t need to talk rubbish
– my fighting does the talking for me and that performance the other nights
shows what I’m all about.”
 
Bute looked shell-shocked by round two; he took a shellacking in the
third, but bravely managed to see out the fourth before the fight’s brutal
ending, which did not come as a surprise to Froch.
  “Yeah, it was
the punch power and the fact that I’m very accurate,” said Froch as talk turned
to the finish. 
 
“Rob did a lot of hard work with me, keeping my feet in range and
keeping my centre of gravity right without reaching in for shots.  We’ve
also worked on making me faster.  I’ve always been very fast, but when my
mind’s not sharp, my body is not very sharp.  When my mind’s on it, you
noticed that I was even faster than Bute on the night.
 
“Bute is a lovely guy.  I’m not being brash or arrogant, but
that was a hell of a beating and if you get beat in that style and manner it is
going to affect you.  Don’t forget that
he got beat by a fighter on top of his game coming off the back of a terrible
loss to one of the best in the world.  I was at home, but my back was to
the wall and he got absolutely obliterated by the best and can hold his head up
high.
 
“Put Ward in front of me in Nottingham that night and he would not have
gone the distance either – I guarantee you that.  I want him to read this
and realize that the rematch is there if he wants it and he hasn’t got a chance
against me in that type of form.”
 
Ward, though, is
unlikely to take Froch on straight away given the outcome of their first
fight.  “Son Of God” also seems the type
of American who believes that the earth is still flat and that any attempt to
head over the horizon will result in him falling over the edge and landing in the
seventh circle of hell.  Ward is unlikely
to ever fight outside the U.S.A.
 
“That’s his problem isn’t it,” stated Froch.  “I’m on top of the
world, so it is all good.”  There is also talk of a rematch with Kessler,
which is a natural fight and one that is easier to make.  Froch agreed:
“That is a massive fight that everyone wants to
see.”
 
The litmus test for
his growing appeal will come in December when the BBC’s Sports Personality of
the Year nominations are announced.  Froch was snubbed altogether last
year.  An Olympian is likely to win in
2012 no matter what the boxer does next, but he hopes to be recognised by the
network.
 
“If the BBC get their act together and realize what I’ve done then of
course, they should at least acknowledge me,” he said to my question of whether
he’ll be a contender should he beat Kessler or another top-level
opponent.  “They didn’t even shortlist me last year, which everyone
went mad about and said was a disgrace, so I’d like to win it, yeah.”
 
Eddie Hearn also believes that Saturday’s victory was the culmination of
an attempt to widen Froch’s public appeal, telling me that his man is now getting
the praise his exploits deserve.  “I
think it has all changed now,” said Hearn. 
 
“I noticed it this morning more than any other day.  It feels that Carl’s
finally getting the credit he deserves.  Carl is a fighter, he doesn’t go
through life thinking, ‘Bloody hell, I need to get more press inches’, or wants
more people to talk about him, but Saturday was a turning point in that
respect.
 
“Carl didn’t have a regular broadcaster to give him that platform before,
and more importantly someone who would get behind him.  Look at what Sky
did last week.  They had five build-up shows before this fight.  That
is what builds fan bases and profiles.  The public had access to Carl and
they loved him.”
 
Still, Froch isn’t ready for divadom just yet, preferring to spend his
Monday morning decorating one of his properties.  Indeed, this DIY approach roused Hearn’s ire
on Saturday.
 
 
“Carl drove himself to the arena,” revealed Hearn.  “I was furious.  I asked him what he was
thinking and he said, ‘It is only a ten-minute drive’, and today he’s at home doing
DIY and stuff like that.  Carl’s a normal
bloke who deserves everything he gets and that is what is so pleasing.”
 
Gone are the days of Froch taking part in PPV fights on Primetime’s excruciatingly
poor platform or the subscription wasteland of Premier Sports.  Channel 5 and BoxNation are the two other
games in town, but in Hearn’s opinion Sky is the best bet when it comes to
building fights and fighters.
 
He said: “Channel 5 coming back into boxing is great, but there’s no
regularity and no cross-promotion with other sports.  There’s no exposure
through Sky Sports News, who show weigh-ins and press conferences – these
things build the fighters.  There’s only one place to fight, and that is
Sky Sports.
 
“That fight was shown live in over 20 countries around the world. 
The Super Six series had its good and bad points, but the biggest good point is
that it made him an international superstar, which he deserves, and showed that
you can’t help but love watching Carl Froch.  Again, he is just awesome to
watch and that is why people buy tickets and tune in – you get non-stop
entertainment from a great fighter and great man.
 
“That was a must-win fight for Carl.  It was a financial gamble
bringing Lucian over, but I told Carl, ‘Don’t worry about Matchroom, worry
about Carl Froch’, because it is his career he was fighting for.  Getting
that fight in Nottingham was great, look at the atmosphere.  That’s how we
want every fight to be.  You saw it with
Kell Brook and Matthew Hatton – packed out stadiums with everyone singing and
having a great time.  More importantly, you want to have people leaving
the arena saying, ‘That was the mutt’s’, which is the most important thing because
they want to get home and watch it again on TV.
 
“People need something to aspire to.  They can turn on the TV, see
people having a great time and think, ‘Wow, this boxing game is great’, which
is exactly what we have done with darts.  People turn the darts on, see
people going crazy and think, ‘We should go to that!’.”
 
It is not just the fans who get carried away, either.  Hearn invaded the ring just before referee Earl
Brown administered his count.  Upon
realizing his mistake, Hearn backtracked only to turn sharply on his heels to
get back into the ring when the fight was officially waved off.  Forget talk of a DQ or appeal, Hearn isn’t a
chief second, as he put it the invasion was a case of a “mad fan” leaping into
the ring and celebrating prematurely.
 
“Listen, there wasn’t anyone who didn’t think the fight was over,” said
Hearn.  “Carl jumped onto the ropes, he
thought it was over.  As I’ve gone to get
up I’ve seen [Bute’s trainer]
on the canvas getting ready [to stop it himself] and as I’ve turned
around, I’ve seen the ref giving out the count.  As I got out the ring, everyone
was coming back in, so I got bashed everywhere, but it showed what it meant to
everybody.  It was a gamble, but sometimes you have to take chances.  As they say, ‘He who dares wins, Rodders’.”
 
British
light-heavyweight titlist Tony Bellew was also at ringside.  “Bomber” has forged a close bond with Froch due
to their hard-fought sparring sessions. 
For Bellew, this was more than just a big win; it was a vindication of
Froch’s no-nonsense approach to his craft.
 
“It was great, I have
worked with Carl for 12-months,” said Bellew. 
“He is a great fella who gives me great advice on a regular basis, so I
was really happy for him the other night.  Carl is a friend of mine.  The setting was magnificent to say the
least.  I was fighting in there with him every minute and every second. 
I am so happy for him.  Carl works so hard, he is a family guy and he is
very impressive.  If he performs how he can do then he can beat anybody he
wants to.”
 
He added: “It was also heart-warming to
see Eddie show how much the win meant to him. 
When he got in the ring it was a real Jerry Maguire moment.  Here was a guy who treats his fighters with
respect and as friends enjoying the moment. 
It was humbling to see.”
 
Humbling, brutal and decisive – the
fight inspired many emotions.  The
overriding one, though, is of a job well done on many levels.  Froch is not one of Bernstein’s “squeaky
wheels”; he is a well-oiled fighting machine who is finally getting his due in
the U.K. and beyond.
 
Courtesy of Rick Reeno and www.boxingscene.com
 
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